It’s hard to believe it’s February and now that the New Year is fully underway, it’s time to again focus upon maintaining the health of your pets.

While the entire staff at Kirkwood Animal Hospital is ready to respond to any situation, our greatest joy is derived by keeping your pet healthy, active and alert. We very much subscribe to the philosophy that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Below are several actions that every pet owner should take this month and throughout the year.

 Pet Wellness Exam

Schedule Annual Checkups
Arranging your pet’s annual checkup is the most important task you can conduct. A regular checkup will enable our doctors and staff to identify any potential or emerging health issues so preventative or less invasive procedures can be provided. During the checkup we will examine your pet from head to tail — literally. Among other tasks, we will:

  • Watch your pet’s movement — looking for limping, discomfort or favoritism toward a limb
  • Feel your pet’s coat — examining the texture and looking for hair loss or skin/muscle abnormalities
  • Look into their eyes — reviewing pupil response, eye movement and the overall condition of the eye
  • Peer into their ears — examining the ear canal and cleanliness of the outer ear
  • Move your pet’s gums — examining the teeth for cracks, chips or missing teeth; view tartar levels; and assess the condition of their breath
  • Feel your pet’s legs and paws — moving them to assess flexibility, potential pain, nail condition and the potential presence of thorns or foxtails
  • Assess your pet’s breathing — listening for shortness of breath, breathing limitations or congestion
  • Listen to your pet’s heartbeat — confirming a strong, regular beat
  • Administer any vaccines — protecting your pet based upon the potential exposure to particular health risks and administering any required vaccinations (such as rabies, etc.)
  • Conduct blood tests — searching for heartworm or other conditions
  • Review a stool sample — searching for parasites or other potentially harmful organisms
  • Compare their current condition to prior checkups — identifying potential weight shifts, behavioral changes or other factors that may impact their health or longevity

Most importantly, we will listen to you. We’ll ask for your assessment regarding any changes with your pet and fully answer any questions you might have. Our objective is to be proactive and fully leverage preventative steps to keep your pets healthy.

Monitor Pet Weight
Just like people, monitoring your pet’s weight is vital to their overall health. Marked increases or decreases in weight could indicate the onset of particular conditions or changes in body chemistry. For some breeds and particularly smaller pets, a significant increase in weight could drastically impact a pet’s overall health. We encourage every pet owner to weigh their pet monthly.

Pets Eating
Provide Healthy Food
Not all commercial pet food provides the proper nutrition for pets — and paying more doesn’t always address this issue. Pet owners should seek food that offers a well-balanced diet — and one low on corn, grains, and fillers. Ideally the food would be sourced and manufactured in the United States where stricter controls are generally imposed on food. If you would like recommendations for well-balanced pet foods, please contact us.

To the extent possible, you should limit the amount of “people” food you share with your pet. While the occasional table scraps are fine, food produced for human consumption is often overloaded with calories, fat, salt/sodium and preservatives — none of which are healthy for your pet.

Provide Mental and Physical Activity
Keeping your pet engaged and active is essential to the health and longevity of your pet — and you. Be sure to spend time playing with your pet each and every day. Consider including your pet in your daily activities — such as exercising. You might be surprised how relaxed you will feel after spending even just a few minutes on all fours with your furry family members.

 Pets Playing

In addition to taking your pet with you on a jog, to the park, or out to play ball or Frisbee, be sure to keep their mind engaged. “Hide and seek” is a great game for cats and dogs alike. It sharpens their natural hunting instincts and keeps their mind active.

A physically and mentally active pet will likely be a much healthier pet.

Conduct Regular Grooming
Grooming your pet on a daily or semi-daily basis provides the opportunity to bond with your pet while also examining them for any bumps, cuts, sensitivities or external parasites. As the skin is the largest organ, regular monitoring and stimulation can help in the early identification of any potential health issues.

Inspect and Brush Teeth
As a reminder, maintaining the health and pain-free operation of your pet’s teeth is vital to their overall health. We encourage every pet owner to brush their pet’s teeth at least once per week — and ideally twice. Brushing helps prevent the build-up of plaque and limit the development of tartar which leads to periodontal disease, tooth loosening or tooth loss — all of which are dangerous as they enable bacteria to enter your pet’s bloodstream potentially impacting their health.

See Something, Say Something
And lastly, an integral component of keeping your pet healthy is a familiar phrase “see something, say something.” Meaning if you perceive changes in your pet’s behavior or appearance, call us. It’s always advantageous and more economical to address any potential issues early when corrective action can be taken — saving your pet discomfort and giving you peace of mind.

If you have any questions about our pet wellness program, please contact us.